The classic poker game Five-card draw is still a favorite among poker players. Play begins with everyone putting in an “ante” by placing a bet in the pot before cards are delt. Beginning with the player on the dealer’s left, each player is delt five cards, face down. After viewing their cards, players begin a round of betting beginning with the player on the dealer’s left. When the betting round is finished, players remaining in the hand may trade one, two or three cards in their hand for new cards. If a player has an ace, he or she may trade in the other four cards, but should show the ace. Trading cards, however, is optional. If fate deals you a great hand, keep it. After all players have had the opportunity to trade cards, betting goes round the table once more. Afterwards, all players show their hands. The best hand wins the pot.
Each combination of cards in a five-card game has its own ranking. When playing “high” in a five-card poker game, the best hand you can have is a royal straight flush – a 10-J-Q-K-A, all of the same suit. A straight flush scores high with five cards of the same suit in a running order – such as 3-4-5-6-7 of clubs. Four of a kind – 7-7-7-7 and anything else scores well. A straight is similar to a straight flush, only the cards are not all of the same suit. Three of a kind, Two pair and one pair score much lower, but are better than nothing. If fate deals everyone a bad hand, the player with the highest card wins.
Another favorite classic poker game among players is Seven-card stud. After the ante, each player is delt two cards face down (“hole” cards) and one card face up (the “door” card), beginning with the player of the dealer’s left. After the deal, players look at their cards. The player with the lowest “door” card places a small bet. Betting continues to the left, with each player having the opportunity to raise, call or fold their cards. Players are then delt another card face-up. During this round, betting begins with the player showing the highest “door” card. This player will now begin each bet for the rest of the hand. After the round, a fifth card is delt and betting continues. A sixth card is delt, followed by more betting. The seventh and final card is delt face-down to the remaining players. The players still in the hand place their final bets, then show their hands. Most often, the game is played to see whoever has the best, highest 5-card poker hand from the seven cards delt. This is known as playing for “high”. This game can also be played as “hi-lo”, where the pot is split between the highest and the lowest hand. Many seven-card stud games are played “8 or better”, meaning that the low hand cannot have a card higher than an eight.
Card rankings for “hi-low” games are the same as for traditional five-card games. However, if the cards you’re delt have you playing for “low”, the best low hand you can have would be Ace-2-3-4-5. From then on, any variation on A-2-3-4-? or A-2-3-?-? will score well. The more cards you have low, the better chance you’ll have of winning half the pot.
One of the most popular poker games is Texas Hold’em. To begin the game, the two players to the left of the dealer put out blind bets. (Blinds are bets made when you haven’t seen a card yet.) The player to the immediate left of the dealer put out the small blind and the next player puts out the big blind. All players are dealt two cards, face down. These cards are known as the “hole” cards. Then, the player to the left of the big blind (the 3rd player) calls the bet, raises it or folds. Betting continues around the table, continuing to move to the left. After all betting has finished, three cards are dealt face up in the center of the table. This deal is known as “the flop”. These flop cards are the community cards that everyone will use in combination with their own cards to make the best hand. Betting begins again with the player to the dealer’s left. A fourth card (known as the “turn”) is then delt face up on the board. Betting begins again. The fifth and final card (the “river”) is delt face up on the board. After a final round of betting, the remaining players show their cards and the person who can make the best five card hand by combining their cards with the cards on the board wins. If the five cards on the board make the best hand, everyone left in the hand divides the pot.
Knowing which cards in your hand are the best will improve your Hold’em game. If you’re delt two Aces, you’ve got the best hand possible. Two Kings, Queens or Jacks are also strong hands and difficult to beat. Combinations such as Ace-King/Queen/ Jack are a good hands as long as the flop is good. Combinations like King-Queen or King-Jack are not nearly as strong, but work very well when paired in a suit.
If you like Texas Hold’em, and want a bit of variety in your game, try adding a few variations during the night. Double Flop Hold’em is a variation of Texas Hold’em where two sets of community cards are delt. Each player still delt two cards to make their hand, but will get to make two separate hands, one for each set of community cards. The community cards are delt in two rows of five, just as if you were playing on two tables. Players make their best hand for each row and the pot is split between the winning hand for each board. It is possible for one person to scoop the whole pot by winning both hands.
Pineapple Poker or “Crazy Pineapple” is another popular variation of the classic Hold’em game. As in Texas Hold’em, the two players to the left of the dealer post blinds before the deal. Players are then delt three cards (instead of two) before the next round of betting. After this betting round is complete, the flop is delt and betting goes around again. The “craziness” begins after the second round of betting. All remaining players choose one of their three cards to discard. The game finishes just like regular Texas Hold’em. The fourth card is delt face up onto the board, players bet, the final card is delt, more betting. Then, players can use any combination of their two hole cards and the five community cards on the board to make the best hand.
The goal of all card games is to have a good time. Choose a game or variation that suits your style and interests. With a little imagination and a few good friends, poker games can prove hours of entertainment and fun.